Lafayette is a cozy town in Sussex County, with a population of approximately 2500. The town has a semi-rural setup with friendly residents. The Village is a popular open-area market catering to Lafayette as well as neighborhood places. Some interesting places to visit in and around the town include the Crooked Swamp Caves, Hauntings, The Lafayette Cemetery, the Painted Silo Mural on Rte 15, and the original post office building.
Crooked Swamp caves in the Lafayette area, New Jersey, comprise half a dozen breathing caves that are now a part of the Blue Heron Park Development Project. These unspoiled natural beauties offer a picturesque spot for visitors, students, scouts, anthropologists, and nature enthusiasts. The 1250 ft long cave system spreads over 100 acres, has many sinkholes and an interconnected system of passages.
In an unfortunate event in 1982, Mr. Weltner, a State Police sergeant, and Scoutmaster in Millstone Township, also in Monmouth, stuck into a slight incline 15 feet underground crevice, head down, and 75 feet from the narrow main entrance. His fellow scouts and rescue operation tried all means to save him. His body was later recovered. Weltner, along with 12 scouts, including two of his boys entered the cave area for exploration.
While many town residents urged the caves to be sealed after the fatal incident, others said that it was an over-reaction. The Crooked Swamp caves are a part of Lafayette’s valuable heritage.
In the 1976 book ”Caves of New Jersey” by Richard F. Dalton, the author has vividly described the nature, structure, and mechanism of these caves. Due to the interconnected passages, the geological surveys describe them as breathing caves as air direction changes frequently.
The residents have mixed reviews about the plight of these caves, However, one thing is clear, the caves must be explored under strict supervision from experienced guides. A few years ago, Karl Kehde of Frankford turned over the limestone Crooked Swamp caves and Indian rock shelters to the New Jersey Land Trust.
The old families of Lafayette buried their loved ones in the cemetery at Sparta. The burial-ground in the township is situated east of the village and is believed to have been used as a potter’s field. It was later controlled by a society, which placed it under the direction of a board of trustees.
Around 1820, the lady who owned the land gave a deed of the ownership of the land to the residents stating that the spot will be utilized as a burial place. After facing negligence for many years, funds were raised, and the trustees supervised the building of a stone wall around the ground. The land area was extended by purchasing another portion of land, and regular upkeep of the land has been undertaken since then.
Many memorial-stones bear the names of the oldest families of the township. Many headstones bear heartfelt messages that the community regards precious and their history bear testament to many events of the last century. The oldest inscription is upon the tablet of Mrs. Margaret, wife of David Demorest, who died March 29, 1812, aged forty-seven.
Currently, Eternal Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetery is a new development located in Lafayette, New Jersey. The property will accommodate New York City and Northern New Jersey’s communities.
With sprawling 55 acres of land on a rising hillside, this cemetery offers spectacular views. Visitors can find many terraced gardens overlooking the fields below, walking paths, and numerous other features.
The Ludlum- Mabee House is a historic District in Lafayette that was added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2014. The House became officially open to the public after 98-years old Grace Mabee cut the ribbon. She also commented on the commendable beautification and restoration work of the House.
The Mabees’ sold the Ludlum Mabee House to the township for about $25000. Till nine years back, municipal meetings were held at the Ludlum-Mabee house. In the nine-year interim period, the Lafayette Center Preservation Foundation worked to restore the building, incurring expenses worth $300,000.
The opening of the Ludlum-Mabee house was met with much enthusiasm and joy. Joan Smith, the president of the Lafayette Center Preservation Foundation, answered the questions posed by media persons. He spoke about the opening preparations and outlined a brief history about Lafayette and the Ludlum-Mabee house. He further said that the House was a gift to the people of Lafayette. They plan to open the building at least once a month and hold education and fun programs. The residents of Lafayette participated in the event with enthusiasm and full fervor.
Cottage Charm, which is in the vicinity, displayed a collection of salvaged items reused as garden artifacts. The “Junque Garden”, a typewrite refurbished as a garden pot, was a special attraction. Several antique vendors were offering unique objects. The street fair was organized by Don Kihlstrom, the owner of the Lafayette Mill.
Alex Everitt, a local historian, said that the Ludlum-Mabee House was one of the biggest mansions in Sussex County. It was built in 1835 by a miller, Joseph Northrup. Following Northrup’s death in 1845, his mother-in-law (a Ludlum) lived in the house. In 1863, the estate was sold to John Linn, a successful doctor in the county.
In 1900, the Mabees’ a family of successful farmers in the county, bought the property. Frank Mabee had five children. Grace Mabee, Frank Mabee’s daughter-in-law, old, lived in the house during the 1940s before moving out.
Festivities lasted from 11 am to 4 pm, concluding with a rock concert by Denise Kyles and Voodoo Child.
Like all old -towns sprawling across America, Lafayette has its own set of ghost stories. In 2014, the first Lafayette Preservation Foundation ghost walk was conducted, organized through an initiative by the coordinator Mary Moynihan.
In 2013, Lafayette was granted historic district status from the state. Lafayette’s historic district consists of 60 buildings, six sites, 13 structures, and two objects that spread along and around about a half-mile on Route 15. The tours start from the Ludlam-Mabee House, 115 Route 15. Four tours are offered throughout the evening, beginning at 20-minute intervals. According to Moynihan, tours lasted between 45 minutes and an hour.
The tour ends at the Lafayette Cemetery, where a bonfire and more ghost stories are narrated. The cemetery was established in 1828, according to the foundation’s website.
The building across the street from the Chocolate Goat has been the home of paranormal sightings. A woman hanged herself in the building’s attic and some of the building’s proprietors claim to have seen the ghostly figure of a woman. In another ghost story, resident Floyd Jones disappeared one night walking between his usual drinking haunt and his home. He was found the next day in the Paulinskill River, wedged between a rock and tree. Then there is Mary Jones, who was hanged for the murder of her mother over money in 1812. The township’s history of the “Speckled Monster,” otherwise known as smallpox is very popular among the local community.
On a bright morning in July 2017, more than a dozen people gathered off Route 15 to celebrate the completion of a painted silo. This new landmark happily welcomes the visitors and draws positivity from residents. The project was unanimously approved by Township Committee members in April 2017. Lafayette Preservation Foundation President Joan Smith floated this wonderful idea when she came across two silos, while she was hosting the Lafayette Haunted Cemetery Tour.
The Township Committee saw this as an opportunity to draw more attention to the township and to “beautify” it, said Committeeman Rich Bruning, who was a pivotal force behind the project. The total cost for the project was $13,000, which came out of the township’s capital account, paying artist Frisbie $7,500 to produce the artwork.
The mural covers a 14-by-28-foot area on the 40-foot-tall silo, showcasing the historical past and agriculture of the township, including the Ludlum-Mabee House; a red barn; a gazebo where musicians once performed; the Paulins Kill, an old white church; and a train that once stopped in Lafayette in 1800, representing the Sussex Railroad.
Installed beside the painted silo is a 14-foot-wide sign that reads: “Historic Lafayette, The Heart of Sussex County, 1845,” which was also made by Frisbie.
The Lafayette Post Office, located at 96 State Route 15, closed all its business operations on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. The Lafayette Post Office was located in the township for 93 years.
The announcement of the closure was made by the USPS spokesman George B. Flood. He also said that rural mail delivery to street addresses will not be affected. The deteriorating condition of the current leased facility was slated as the reason behind the suspension. Postal officials are exploring all options for a permanent solution for the continuation of service in Lafayette.
The post office served 5,026 residents with about 8,022 packages shipped annually. The building is located in a historic district, and among those concerned about the future status of the building is historian Joan Smith.
From Aug. 17, the 144 post office box customers began picking up their mail at the Augusta Post Office, 22 U.S. Highway 206.